Thursday, July 8, 2010

Herbs: F is for Feverfew

Used by the ancient Greeks and Romans, the name Feverfew comes from the Latin word febrifugia which means "driver out of fevers".  A very aptly named plant!

Latin Name: Tanacetum partenium of the sunflower family

Alternate Name(s):  Featherfoil

Description:  This fast-growing plant is native to Europe, but now grows wild in North America.  The bright green leaves are about 1" wide with small white flowers sporting yellow centers.  The entire plant is quite aromatic.   Feverfew can become bushy and will reach up to 3 feet tall. 

Habitat: Feverfew likes well drained soil in a sunny location.  It is a member of the mum or sunflower family and will grow just about anywhere.  It will reseed itself readily.

Growing: Can be grown as a hardy perennial or as a biannual with blooms occurring from June to August in most areas.  Will grow very easily from seed and may also be propagated via division or cuttings.  If growing from seed, you may sow indoors about 2 weeks before your last frost.  In mild climates, the seed may be sown directly in early spring or in the fall.  It is a very hardy plant that requires minimal fuss.

Harvesting:  Feverfew is best picked early in the morning after the dew has dried from the plant.  Drying in hanging bunches works very well, suspended over a tray to catch falling petals is helpful.  I've also hung them in brown paper lunch sacks while drying in order to keep the petals contained and dust from the plants.  Either hanging method will suffice.   All aerial parts of the plants are used.

Uses: The old herbals have many suggestions and uses listed for feverfew.  It can be used fresh, dried, as a tea, or a tincture.    Some of the suggested properties of feverfew are that it dilates blood vessels, helps reduce pain from arthritis, it can help promote menstruation, and has insecticidal benefits.  It has been touted for "women's troubles" and as an antidote for the over-indulgence of opiates.  The bitter taste can be hidden if mixed in with other salad greens.

I began growing it for both the purported migraine relief and for use as a dye plant: the leaves & stems make a greenish-yellow dye. In my research, I was also pleased to find that it has been used as an aspirin alternative.  Aspirin is toxic to cats while they can metabolize feverfew and gain the same relief.

The flowers also contain  pyrethrins (similar to marigolds).  This has been found to be effective against fleas and other insects.  A tincture of feverfew can be used as an insect repellent for humans as well as relief from insect bites.

Pet Flea Rinse

Gather some FRESH Feverfew and place in a bowl.  Pour enough boiling water over it to cover.  Cover the bowl and let cool.  Strain out the herbs and then pour the COOLED liquid over the pet's coat.  Let it soak to the skin and then dry by itself.  *Note that this is not a mixture that will keep, throw away any leftover liquid.

Disclaimer: The information presented herein is intended for educational, informational, and recreational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent disease. It is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider or your vetrinarian before taking any supplements, herbs, or other substances or supplying them to your pets.


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